Lists of the greatest this or the best that are provocations and nothing more.
Whether it’s a critic offering his 10-best list of films (or books or TV shows or albums) for a given year or decade or an organization or website doing the same thing, it’s always a matter of opinion. It’s meant to say, “Here’s my hierarchy – agree with me!” Or the opposite, as is often the case.
I came across a list of the supposed 100 greatest films of the 1970s, through a friend’s link on Facebook. Mostly it was a tally: How many of these have you seen? As it turned out, I’d seen 99 of the 100 – the only one I’d missed being “Fiddler on the Roof,” which I skipped at the time (1971, the year of “Carnal Knowledge and “Taking Off,” neither of which is on this list).
Looking at that list made me feel old because, in truth, I’d not only seen them but had reviewed almost all of them when they were first released.
But that started me thinking about the movies of the 1970s and this so-called golden era of cinema. If you look at the films on that particular list, there are a lot that have come to be regarded as classics. And rightly so.
Still, when I read someone offering thoughts about the glory that was the 1970s, such as the mythology promulgated in Peter Biskind’s vastly overrated book, “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls,” I have to stop and say, “Well, yeah, but…”
This commentary continues on my website.